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After ‘Tenet’ Stumbles and ‘Wonder Woman 2’ Moves, Movie Theaters Brace for Rough Fall

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The ShowRoom Cinema in Asbury Park and the Beach Cinema in Bradley Beach got the greenlight to reopen at the end of August when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifted restrictions on movie theaters. Mike Sodano, who owns both venues, says that even though he can turn on the marquee lights again after dimming them for roughly six months, he’s hesitant to start welcoming back customers.

“Movie theaters need three things to sustain themselves,” says Sodano. “They need profits, they need people and they need product. Well, this pandemic has affected all three.”

Sodano isn’t sure when he’ll begin making moves to reopen. The box office performance of Warner Bros.’ “Tenet,” the Christopher Nolan science-fiction epic that many exhibitors hoped would lure audiences back to cinemas during the coronavirus, has done little to assuage his anxiety. The film earned a meager $6.7 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic haul to a disappointing $29.5 million.

“‘Tenet’ is a big movie, Christopher Nolan is a big director, and Warner Bros. is a big studio, but there’s one thing they can’t control, and that’s their audience,” says Sodano. “I know this is a marathon and not a sprint, but when you look at those numbers, it does not give me confidence that people are ready to come back to theaters.”

Studios seem to agree. Last week, Warner Bros. moved “Wonder Woman 1984” from Oct. 2 to Christmas, and Universal pushed “Candyman” from Oct. 16 to an undetermined time in 2021. That followed the decision by Disney’s 20th Century to delay “The King’s Man” from Sept. 18 to Feb. 26, 2021. On Sept. 14, STX added to the list of postponements, announcing it would release the Gerard Butler disaster film “Greenland” in the U.S. at some unspecified point in the fourth quarter instead of debuting it this month.

There’s also skepticism that Disney will go forward with its plans to release “Black Widow,” the upcoming Marvel movie, on Nov. 6, or the Pixar adventure “Soul” on Nov. 20, particularly if theaters aren’t allowed to come back online in Los Angeles and New York, where they remain shuttered. That means cinemas will have to gamble that “Tenet” remains enough of a draw that it can keep the box office humming until “No Time to Die,” the next James Bond adventure, opens on Nov. 20. In the meantime, exhibitors are begging studios to take a look at the films they’ve pushed into 2021 and reconsider launching them in October or late September, which are now largely devoid of big-budget releases.

It’s easy to understand the mounting panic among theater owners. In a business that cycles through blockbusters on an almost weekly basis, nearly two months is an eternity to go without a new crowd-pleaser.

As for “Tenet,” the film may still make a profit, but it will have to claw its way into the black.

“‘Tenet’ is doing about as well as can be expected, but a lot of things are going against it,” says Eric Wold, an exhibition industry analyst with B. Riley. “Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco are closed, and a lot of people don’t want to leave the house because they’re concerned. I’m not sure we’ll see a lot of new content until more markets open up and more consumers feel safe.”

It’s a sad state of play that’s unthinkable for a Nolan enterprise, given that the filmmaker helmed megahits like 2008’s “The Dark Knight” ($1 billion worldwide) and 2010’s “Inception” ($833 million). The fact that “Tenet” has a fighting chance is largely due to foreign grosses. The film has earned nearly $200 million globally, mainly on the strength of its overseas revenues, but it will need to top $400 million to break even.

“Where people feel safe, they are going to the movies,” said Richard Gelfond, CEO of Imax Corporation. “That’s how it’s playing out with ‘Tenet.’ The international results in places like China are really good. In the U.S., people didn’t come out in the same numbers.”

For movie theaters that took the risk of reopening — implementing safety measures, orchestrating extra auditorium cleanings and hiring back staff and training them to adhere to new protocols — the dearth of studio content is a big stumbling block. Many venues say they are already operating at a loss, but they believe it’s important to start showing movies again so people will get back in the habit of going to the multiplexes. There’s a chance that some venues could reduce hours of operation, or only open certain days of the week, if attendance remains low.

“It feels like distribution has kind of abandoned the movie theaters,” says Brian Schultz, founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill, which operates theaters in 10 states. “I understand the core economics at play here, but without new product, we can’t keep things going. Christopher Nolan put an amazing stake in the ground with ‘Tenet,’ but now other studios need to follow his lead.”

So far, filmmakers and media conglomerates are hesitant to take the baton from Nolan. And while major releases such as “West Side Story” and “Dune” still are expected to flicker across screens before the New Year, it’s unclear if the public health situation will improve dramatically in the coming months. Fall and winter will bring flu season, which could make customers who are frightened of the coronavirus even more skittish about venturing out of their homes as cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. remain much higher than in other countries.

“The theatrical business is broken right now,” says David A. Gross, head of the consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “This is an unfamiliar situation. The challenges from the pandemic are beyond the business’s control.”

Faced with this kind of existential threat, analysts expect that domestic box office will drop more than 80% year over year, a sign of just how great a toll the pandemic has taken on revenues. That’s bad news for studios, but many of them are part of sprawling media conglomerates that can withstand the financial hit. Movie theaters have had to pay rent for months while taking in virtually no revenue — and their balance sheets may not improve even when they are allowed to resume operations. Many states require operators to keep venues at 25% capacity so social distancing can be enforced. That means margins are shrinking. Cinemas make most of their money selling popcorn and soda, but fewer people in seats means less activity at the concession stand. That’s made some exhibitors apprehensive about taking the steps to welcome back audiences.

Nic Steele, the founder and owner of Eclipse Theatre in Las Vegas, originally considered reopening when “Tenet” hit screens. But after he crunched the numbers, he decided that he couldn’t make it work. His theaters couldn’t be profitable unless at least half the seats in his auditoriums were full, something that’s impossible given current public health rules. Also, rehiring people, training them and buying supplies to keep his venues free of COVID-19 will add to his costs, making profitability more problematic if revenues are lower.

“If you open too soon and there’s no product out, or just an OK-performing movie every few months, you’re sitting there with a lot of fixed costs and no revenue coming in,” says Steele. “Your cash-burn rate is going to eat up reserves. Whether there’s one guest or 50 guests, a lot of the fixed costs are the same.”

Theaters that have taken the plunge report mixed results. Studio Movie Grill, which operates in states such as Texas and Florida, has reopened 19 of its 31 theaters, but it’s been a struggle to draw crowds. Schultz says his most fervent customers have returned, but that his locations are still receiving calls from potential ticket buyers who aren’t sure if cinemas are back in business.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” he says. “It’s been a slow process, and we have to keep countering the message that movie theaters are shut down.”

Schultz hopes that studios and exhibitors can join together to tout theaters’ new safety precautions and to embark on a campaign to get audiences to visit their local cinemas again. But there’s one major stumbling block: content.

“I want people to know that we’re ready for them to come back to the movies,” says Schultz. “But everything depends on how we all act. If guests come back in droves, then studios will start releasing movies again. If studios start releasing more movies, then audiences will return to theaters. It’s a Catch-22.”

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New Movies + Shows to Watch this Weekend: Netflix’s ‘Ratched’ + More

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Ah, another week in the books which means another weekend is waiting just ahead for us! While some people will be busy this weekend celebrating the Jewish New Year (l’shana tova!), that does not mean you can’t spend your time hiding from all your relatives bored out of your mind! Why not use those precious minutes of peace as an opportunity to catch up on all your favorite titles? And this weekend, there are a ton of new movies and shows on streaming ready for you to discover. But don’t waste your time figuring out what to watch, because whether you’re looking on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or all of the above, starting with the freshest titles is always the wisest move. Here are the new releases you can watch this weekend and where to stream them.

New Movies and Shows to Stream This Weekend: Ratched, PEN15 Season 2, and All In: The Fight for Democracy

People are already buzzing about the binge-worthy shows and new movies on streaming this weekend, so we won’t let you get behind. First up on Netflix is the new series Ratched, the thrilling drama show starring Sarah Paulson as the infamous villain from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Over on Hulu, the hysterically-traumatic series Pen15 is releasing its second cringe-worthy season; and on Amazon Prime Video All In: The Fight for Democracy is ready and waiting for those who are looking to educate themselves on a major issue facing U.S. citizens today: voter suppression. We could keep raving about the impressive titles new on streaming this weekend, but instead we will just direct you to the content below:

New on Netflix September 18: Ratched

Sarah Paulson is Nurse Ratched in the new hit series Ratched on Netflix. Inspired by the classic novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” this Ryan Murphy and Evan Romansky drama series takes a deep dive into the story behind the novel’s main antagonist, Nurse Mildred Ratched and how she scammed, manipulated and bribed her way into psychiatric hospital in 1947. Star Sarah Paulson portrays the titular character as a woman teetering on the edge of both good and evil, and you never quite know if she considers herself the hero or villain of her own story, making the dark and twisted series that more compelling. Get ready to meet the real nurse in Ratched, one of the top shows to watch this month on Netflix.

Stream Ratched on Netflix

New on Hulu September 18: PEN15: Season 2

The adorkable comedy series Pen15 is back for another cringe-worthy, hormone-raging season on Hulu. Creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle are back to play the younger, teenage outcast versions of themselves in this hit comedy series set in the year 2000. However, this season you can expect all the same fun but also a twinge of darkness as the show examines the fallout of Anna’s parents’ divorce. But worry not, Pen15 seems to have beaten the sophomore slump with an impossibly-funnier second season that brings all the laughs and a ton more heart.

Stream PEN15: Season 2 on Hulu

New on Amazon Prime Video September 18: All In: The Fight for Democracy

New on Amazon Prime Video is All In: The Fight for Democracy, the exposing documentary about the truth of voter suppression in America. Through this film, filmmakers Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus examine the history of voter suppression in the country and introduce us to the activists who are fighting the fight for U.S. citizens today. With interviews from today’s top leaders such as Stacey Abrams, Carol Anderson, Kristen Clarke and more, All In: The Fight for Democracy will inspire you to get to the polls and try to help those who have a harder time doing so.

Stream All In: The Fight for Democracy on Prime Video

Full List of New Movies and Shows on Streaming This Weekend

The options above only scratch the surface, so you know that this weekend’s full lineup will have amazing options for what to watch this weekend! For the full breakdown of the best movies and shows to stream now, or if you’re still undecided on what to stream this weekend, then check out the complete list below:

New on Netflix- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

American Barbecue Showdown *NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous *NETFLIX FAMILY
Ratched *NETFLIX ORIGINAL

New on Hulu- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

Babyteeth (2019)
Gemini Man (2019)
Pen15: Complete Season 2 (Hulu Original)
Sherman’s Showcase: Black History Month Special (IFC)
StarDog and TurboCat (2020)
The Fight (2020)

Released Sunday, September 20

The Haunted (2020)

New on Amazon Prime Video- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

All In: The Fight for Democracy *Amazon Original Movie (2020)
Antebellum (2020)
Gemini Man (2019)
Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs (2019)

New on Disney+ – Full List

Released Friday, September 18

Becoming – Original Series Premiere: Episodes 101-110 Available *Disney+ Original
Bend it Like Beckham
Coop & Cami Ask the World (S2)
Europe from Above (S1)
Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Kingdom of the Mummies (S1)
Marvel Super Hero Adventures (s4)
Notre Dame: Race Against the Inferno
Once Upon a Time (S1-7)
One Day At Disney – Episode 142 – “Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko: Veterinarian” *Disney+ Original
Soy Luna (S2-3)
Violetta (S3)
Weird But True – Episode 306 – “Trains” *Disney+ Original
Wicked Tuna (S9)

New on HBO- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

Habla Now (HBO)
La Musiquita Por Dentro, 2019 (HBO)

Released Saturday, September 19

The Invisible Man, 2020 (HBO)

New on Starz- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

Absolute Deception (2013)
Air (2015)
Brigsby Bear (2017)
Buttons: A Christmas Tale (2018)
Gattaca (1997)
Go (1999)
Maggie’s Plan (2016)
Man Of The House (2005)
Maudie (2017)
Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer (2017)
The Ballad Of Lucy Whipple (2000)
The Bravados (1958)
The Broken Land (1962)
The Bronze (2016)
The Covenant (2006)
The Glass House (2001)
The Master Of Disguise (2002)
Third Person (2014)
Truth (2015)

Released Sunday, September 20

Power Book II: Ghost – Episode 103

New on Showtime- Full List

Released Saturday, September 19

Paranoia

New on BritBox- Full List

Released Friday, September 18

This Farming Life: Season 4 | Exclusive, North American Premiere

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Keanu Reeves Talks Keeping Up His Gym Physique When Matrix 4 Shut Down

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The past few years have seen nostalgia dominate the entertainment industry. And as a result, countless long awaited sequels and reboots have found their way to theaters. One of those upcoming projects is Lana Wachowski’s mysterious Matrix 4 movie, which will feature a mixture of new and familiar faces. Keanu Reeves is back playing Neo, and he recently revealed how he managed to stay in shape during the months-long break of filming.

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SNEAK PEEK: EXCLUSIVE Preview of Marvel’s SPIDER-WOMAN #4

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Spider-Woman finds herself in the last place on Earth she wants to be: Wundagore Mountain. What could possibly bring Jess back to the place that gave her powers? Who would put someone through that trauma? The answers will shock you! It’s about to get very, VERY personal.

Swinging into stores and onto your favorite digital platforms on Wednesday 23 September

Author: Ross Hutchinson

South African father, technology, sci-fi, fantasy nut and lifelong comic reader….. my love of costumed capers started very early after a chance encounter with a spinner full of comics in a local convenience store. I am a fan of all things Marvel, Dc, and Image including X-men, X-force, New Mutants, Teen Titans, Saga, Hellboy, Wayward, Gen13, Nightwing, Sandman and many more.

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